Government of India, India, Stories, Water

Data: More Than 70% of The Water Bodies Are ‘Not In Use’ in Karnataka & Delhi


The first ever water bodies census has enumerated more than 24 lakh water bodies. However, not all water bodies enumerated in the survey are in use. Over 16% of all the water bodies included in the survey are ‘not in use’ for various reasons. This share is more than 70% in Karnataka & Delhi.

Fresh Water resources are finite and hence conservation of the same becomes imperative to ensure the sustenance of life that depends on them.  India has a wide range of water bodies across its diverse landscape. However, various issues like exploitation, negligence, natural & anthropogenic reasons, etc. prove to be detrimental to these water resources. 

The first-ever Census on Water Bodies in India provides deep insights into the water bodies in India. This could also provide critical information for conservation efforts. Our story on this census and analysis of the distribution of water bodies across the country can be read here.

As per this census, around 24.24 lakh water bodies are enumerated in the country. These include ponds, tanks, reservoirs, lakes, etc. However, the survey indicates that not all of these water bodies are in use, with many of these water bodies marked as ‘not in use’. What is the proportion of such water bodies? What are the reasons for them not being in use? Here is an analysis. 

The data from the first water body census available on Dataful is used for the analysis. 

Around 21% of the Urban Water bodies are not in use 

Out of the total water bodies enumerated as part of the survey, 16.3% are identified as ‘not in use’. These water bodies are not in use for various reasons – being dried up, construction, siltation, destroyed beyond repair, impact of industrial effluents, salinity and other reasons. 

In total, there are 3.94 lakh water bodies in the country that are identified as ‘not in use’.  

There is a variation between Urban & Rural areas to the extent of water bodies ‘not in use’.  As highlighted in our earlier story, water bodies in rural areas make up 97% of the total water bodies. Out of the 23.55 lakh rural water bodies, 16% i.e. more than 3.79 lakh water bodies are identified as ‘not in use’.  This share of water bodies that are ‘not in use’ is higher in Urban areas. Around 21% of the 69.5 thousand urban water bodies i.e. 14.65 thousand are not in use.  

78 % of the water bodies in Karnataka are not in use 

While the national average of the total water bodies that are not in use is around 16%, there exists a large variation among the states. The variations also exist in terms of urban-rural water bodies within the states. Here are a few highlights. 

  • Karnataka has the highest proportion of its water bodies ‘not in use’. Out of the 27 thousand water bodies in Karnataka, around 21 thousand i.e. 78% are ‘not in use’. As per the census data, all the 789 water bodies in the Urban areas of Karnataka are ‘not in use’
  • In contrast, Gujarat has the highest proportion of its water bodes in use. Out of the 54 thousand water bodies, 53.9 thousand i.e. 99.7% of the water bodies are in use. All the 53.15 thousand water bodies that are enumerated in the Rural areas of Gujarat are in use. 
  • Assam, which ranks among the top-5 states in terms of the most number of water bodies, only about 1.8% are ‘not in use’. 1.69 lakhs out of the 1.72 lakh water bodies are in use. 
  • West Bengal, which has the highest number of water bodies has only about 6.5% of the total water bodies ‘not in use’. In the case of the other states in the top-5 i.e. Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh & Odisha, 27%, 22% and 11% of the water bodies are ‘not in use’, respectively. 
  • Among the other large states, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar & Tamil Nadu have a higher proportion of their water bodies ‘not in use’, behind Karnataka. 

Among the reasons specified, Drying-up is the major cause for Water bodies not being in use 

As indicated earlier there are various reasons why a water body is ‘not in use’. Drying-up, construction, siltation, being destroyed beyond repair, the impact of industrial affluents and salinity are among the categories that are specified in the census report. 

However, in more than half of the cases i.e. for 59% of the water bodies that are ‘not in use’, the reason is mentioned as ‘others’ in the census. This leaves a large gap in the reasons for the water bodies ‘not in use’. West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, and Uttar Pradesh are among the states that have majorly contributed towards the reason being marked as ‘others’. 

Among the instances where the reasons are specified, water bodies being dried up is the major reason. A total of 93 thousand water bodies in the country are ‘not in use’ because they are dried up. Both in the case of urban and rural areas, water bodies being dried up is the major reason for the, not being in use. 

Across different types of water bodies – ponds, lakes, tanks, reservoirs, etc, this is the major reason for not being in use. 

Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have the highest with around 21 thousand water bodies being dried up. Siltation and Construction are cited as other major reasons. In the case of lakes, ‘Construction’ & ‘Siltation’ nearly match up the instances of ‘Dried-up’ as the reason for the water body not in use. 

55% of the Water bodies in use are for Pisciculture 

Of water bodies in use, around 16.5% are in use for the purpose of Irrigation. Another 10% are used for domestic purposes or for drinking.  However, a major share i.e. 55% of the total water bodies enumerated in the census are used for Pisciculture. In India, a total of 11.26 lakh water bodies are for this purpose. 

Around 6.1 lakh water bodies in West Bengal, that account for nearly 82% of the water bodies in the state, are used for Agriculture. In the case of Assam, 88% and in Odisha 61% of the water bodies in the states are for the purpose of Pisciculture. Among the water bodies used for Irrigation, Jharkhand has the highest share. 

Featured Image: Water Bodies Census


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